Aviation News

July 29, 2009

Arson Possible Cause of Recent American Airlines 767 Fire

American Airlines requested the help of federal arson investigators to determine what ignited a blaze that occurred in a bathroom on board a June 10th flight, the Wall Street Journal reports. AA 64, a 767-300ER flying from New York’s Kennedy Airport enroute to Zurich, was forced to return to Halifax after the fire broke out high above the north Atlantic.

American’s own mechanics and engineers were unable to locate the source of the fire after examining all the usual sources of accidental bathroom fires, such as malfunctioning circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, exhaust fans and water heaters. Officials subsequently contacted the FBI for help, “because it was something we had never seen before,” according to an airline spokesman quoted by WSJ. In turn, arson experts from the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were summoned, and now the NTSB has taken the lead in the investigation, perhaps an indication that criminal activity has been ruled out.

An NTSB report is expected by the end of summer.

The lavatory sustained extensive damage, requiring the aircraft remain out of service for weeks while investigators removed parts for closer inspection and large pieces were replaced.

A user on FlyerTalk who was on board described some harrowing moments on the flight:

I happened to be on flight 64 last Tuesday night in J. Two hours into the flight, just after getting our IFE device and warm nuts/cheese, the fire alarm in the lavatory went off. One of the flight attendats opened the lavatory door and smoke started to come out immediately. Unfortunately, she seemed to freeze and had to be helped by other flight attendants and the pilot resting in 1J to find the fire extinguisher. By the time the smoke was so thick that it was not possible to see past the lavatory into Y, so they had to use a mask to go into the lavatory and put the fire out.